Stop the campus rape numbers game

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, August 11, 2014

One in five? Yeah, right. Sounds way too high. That's a common reaction to the oft-cited statistic about the share of women who experience an attempted or completed sexual assault during college. The number can't possibly be right, the Doubting Thomases (or, less frequently, Doubting Thomasinas) argue. It's based on a small sample of schools, after all, and must not be representative of the full melange of colleges out there.

How about this, then? Let's survey every campus and find out.

So proposes a bipartisan bill introduced by eight senators last week. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would, among other things, create new transparency standards for U.S. colleges, requiring them to conduct anonymous, standardized, representative surveys about student experiences with sexual violence. The survey language and platform would be developed by the federal government, and results would be published in a centralized, user-friendly database — alongside other figures schools already report, such as tuition and retention rates, in exchange for participating in the federal student financial aid program.

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